If you have been wondering how to achieve muscle definition, you have come to the right place. The key to looking completely shredded is dependent on 2 things. Muscle mass and body fat percentage.
In order to achieve muscle definition, you need to be comfortable with the fact that you need both of these in order to achieve the look.
Lucky for us, there are paths that we can take in order to get to where we want to go.
Before my fitness journey started, I had a very low body fat percentage, but ZERO muscle. Well, there was probably some muscle of course, but I was one of the scrawniest people I had ever seen.
One kid in high school even said that I looked like a holocaust victim. Not cool.
The point here is that I needed to put on muscle before anything else. In this article, we are going to go over some principles to help you decide which direction you need to go in.
Before we get into our principles, I urge you to download our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). You will find that our FREE workout plans will get you to your goal of perfect muscle definition.
To build muscle or to lose fat?
This is the ultimate question when learning how to achieve muscle definition. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what route you want to take first. Because surely you will alter your route at different stages.
If you have a body fat percentage that is over 20%, that is a good indication that you should cut fat. If you have a body fat percentage lower than 15%, that is a good indication that you should bulk.
A bulk is when you eat at a caloric surplus and workout and a cut is when you eat at a caloric deficit and workout. You cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit. And you also cannot lose belly fat in a caloric surplus.
Learning these 2 things will help you massively along your way. It will also very much help if you can learn about calculating your maintenance calories. This is going to help you determine if you are eating in a caloric surplus or deficit.
Are you skinny with little muscle definition? It is time to bulk. This means that it is time to eat in a caloric surplus, and workout 3-4 days per week. After you have identified your maintenance calorie number, you can now work on exactly where you should be with your caloric surplus.
The magic number is usually around 500 calories over maintenance per day. Start there and work your way up if you don’t start to see weight gain.
Personally, I think eating at a caloric surplus is the most important part of any bulk. But, you are also going to need to lift heavy weights. As I mentioned in the intro, our app has FREE workout plans that you can take advantage of.
If you aren’t a fan of apps, you can always check out our beginner bodybuilding routine for mass.
Continuing with a caloric surplus and working out 3-4 days per week is going to be the building blocks for your muscle. Your body will have no choice but to build muscle if you continue this without interruption.
As you can imagine, cutting is the opposite of bulking. You will need to eat at a caloric deficit this time instead of a caloric surplus. Too many people are not willing to do this, which is why a large percentage of our population is overweight.
As you can imagine, cutting is just a shortened term for cutting fat. If you are in a position where you have a lot of fat, your first step is to cut to reveal what you are working with. From here, you can decide later if you want to start bulking to build muscle.
I will always recommend that you get below 15% body fat before you start any bulking routine. So, make sure you know your body fat percentage. If you can’t measure your body fat percentage, but you know you are overweight, you might as well start cutting.
Just like the opposite of bulking, you want to stick with about 500 calories under your maintenance per day. If you make it consistent, you will absolutely lose weight.
The goal here is to lose fat and maintain muscle at the same time. If you go too far below your maintenance, you will lose fat AND muscle. That is no fun. Don’t be lured in by the thought of losing 5 pounds per week. That is not sustainable.
All you have to do is eat at a caloric deficit of 500 calories per day under your maintenance number, and workout 3-4 days per week. Pepper in some HIIT workouts 2-4 times per week, and you will get absolutely shredded.
Check out our list of 4 of the best high intensity interval training workouts for beginners at home.
Next steps to achieve muscle definition
So you know whether or not you need to bulk or cut. The next steps would be to constantly monitor your body and see which direction you are going.
When I first started bulking, I thought that I was in a caloric surplus, and went that direction for 3 months before I realized that I was not gaining any weight. Every single person is different, so you will need to monitor your body.
Ultimately, if we want the shredded look of a muscle defined body, we need to have a low body fat percentage. But, as I mentioned in the introduction, if you have low muscle mass, your body is not going to look good with low body fat.
This is why I always advocate for a bulk and cut cycle. If you are skinny and have a low body fat percentage, try bulking for 6 months, and cutting for 3 months. When you cut, you reveal the muscle that you built in your bulk.
If you are already overweight, simply keep cutting until your body fat is under 15%. From there, you can determine your next steps.
I want every person here to know that they are capable of building an incredible body. I know for a fact because it was me who achieved a body that I am proud of. I am someone who didn’t even think it was possible to build any muscle.
This blog is littered with content that will help you in almost any situation, so be sure to explore it.
Staying motivated and consistent
Achieving muscle definition is going to take time. It is going to take a lot of time for some people, and for others, maybe not as long. The key here is to focus on your current situation and realizing that it is a process.
Do not give any credit to the thought that you can get shredded in one month. It is not going to happen. The fitness industry is full of fake lies that give you temporary hope.
Ultimately, they bank on the fact that you will eventually give up. That way, they can sell you a new product when you are feeling motivated again.
Knowing that you are going to go through highs and lows of motivation is the first step to staying motivated and consistent. Learn how to make exercise a habit. Even when you have zero motivation, just stepping into the gym for 5 minutes is going to help you stay consistent.
Another thing that I highly encourage is to take “before” pictures. I was always so uncomfortable with my body, that I never took official pictures before. After years of working out, I started taking them.
Now I can look back and see how far I have come, even just from a couple of years ago. I cannot tell you how important this is for motivation.
When you look in the mirror every day, you don’t realize the small changes that are being made in your body. But when you see 2 pictures side by side of what you once were vs now, you will get a surge of motivation to keep going.
The key here is to take measurements and realize that everything is going to take time. Also, you should understand expectations. Learn about realistic fitness goals for beginners.
Main Point: How to achieve muscle definition
As you can see, achieving muscle definition is a combination of low body fat percentage and a solid foundation of muscle mass.
We learned that there are steps that you can take to achieve this look, but of course it is going to take time and dedication.
If you know that you have a low body fat percentage, but not much muscle, that would be your indication that it is time for a bulk. If you are overweight with a body fat percentage over 20%, this is an indication that you should start cutting.
Remember, this whole process is about revealing what is beneath the fat. If you have nothing to reveal beneath the fat, then you need to build some muscle up. I even wrote an article titled Why is it so hard for me to get abs. The answer is simple. It’s because your body fat percentage isn’t low enough.
I want you to be aware of something that I have mentioned multiple times throughout this article. You cannot build muscle AND lose fat at the same time. You have to make a choice between one or the other, and then switch back and forth until you achieve the look you are going for.
Learning how to achieve muscle definition is simple. The problem arises when lack of commitment and motivation kicks in. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of things that you can do to stay motivated like taking “before” pictures, and showing up to the gym, even if it is only for 5 minutes.
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